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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, February 18, 2006

Officers sue HPD for sex harassment

By Ken Kobayashi
Advertiser Courts Writer

A veteran police officer, who five years ago became Honolulu Police Department's first woman homicide detective, filed a federal lawsuit this week against the department alleging sexual harassment.

In the suit, Sheryl Sunia said that after she complained about sexual harassment by fellow officers, retaliation came in the form of a false allegation that she committed perjury while testifying in a recent murder and robbery case. Her police powers were then taken away and she was transferred to a desk job, according to the suit.

Sunia was not transferred back to the homicide unit even after the Attorney General's Office declined to prosecute her on perjury allegations, the suit said.

The sexual harassment allegations stem from a police meeting in November 2004 at McCoy Pavilion at Ala Moana Park, the suit said. During the meeting, at which up to 90 police employees were in attendance, a detective described in detail about how a nurse fondled his genitals during a medical procedure and a video of naked men skydiving was shown to the group, the suit said.

The suit asks for an unspecified amount of money.

Two other HPD officers, Alan Rivers and Sharolyn Rodrigues-Wong, joined in the suit. They alleged the department retaliated against them for their sexual harassment complaints in separate cases.

Michelle Yu, police spokeswoman, said the department is not commenting about the suit at this time.

Sunia was the lead detective in the slaying of an 'Aiea man by three masked gunmen in 2003. Four men twice went on trial in that murder and robbery case, but the prosecution secured only a manslaughter conviction against one of them. The other charges were thrown out because two juries in the trial and retrial failed to reach unanimous verdicts on the other men.

The perjury allegation is tied to court proceedings during which Sunia and fellow homicide detective Larry Tamashiro gave different accounts in the handling of a ballistic report. Tamashiro testified that Sunia told him to back-date the report. Sunia denied giving such an order.

The suit alleges Sunia was treated differently from male detectives, including Tamashiro, who was not subjected to an investigation even though Sunia's lawyer sent a letter accusing Tamashiro of perjury.

Reach Ken Kobayashi at kkobayashi@honoluluadvertiser.com.